The Commish Speaks: Pinch Runners
Wednesday, July 21, 2009

The use of pinch runners in the RJSL has been a challenging and misunderstood topic that has led to arguments and calls of unfair play. There are two rules for the use of pinch runners: one during the regular season and one during the playoffs. Both of these are fairly straightforward but require an understanding in order to be used properly. As with most things in the RJSL, there are many opinions on this matter ranging from “if you can’t run the bases then you shouldn’t play to “pinch runners should always be allowed as long as the pinch runner is the last batted out. We have adopted a compromise that is spelled out below.

During the regular season, a player that feels that running the bases would pose a health risk for him may request a pinch runner. We have quite a few people in this league who are very out of shape, recovering from an injury, or simply unable to run for a variety of reasons. The PLAYER may request a pinch runner. The captain (or teammates) may not request or encourage a runner to use a pinch runner. The decision is the sole responsibility of the base runner. Certainly, a pinch runner CANNOT be used for strategic purposes. Additionally, a catcher may request a pinch runner so that they can get ready for the next inning. The pinch runner must be the last batted out who is capable of running.

There are circumstances when many players on a team require pinch runners and this serves as a source of frustration to the opposing team. Clearly, the pinch runner should be used judiciously or controversy will ensue. Perhaps we could tweak the rule a bit so that pinch runners would not be able steal third but that will be for next season. The spirit of the rule is consistent with the RJSL regular season philosophy; we want everyone to have a good time within a competitive framework. If that means that a player can only come if they don’t have to run the bases then so be it.

During the playoffs, the competitive spirit is dominant and it has made for a very high level of intense competition. Those players who are not interested in focused, intense, competitive play are not required to play. It is a great experience which I hope everyone will get to partake in at some point, however, it is a serious competition. Therefore, if a pinch runner is required, then the player must leave the game. The pinch runner must still be the last batted out. This CAN be used as a strategic move.

I hope this clarifies things. There are times when a player requires a pinch runner and the last batted out cannot run and the one before him cannot run and the one before him ends up being the fastest guy on the team. This situation is exacerbated when it happens multiple times within a game. I ask captains to try their best to avoid these situations as they lead to machlokes, even to the point of asking a runner to jog and not slide rather than end up using the same speedster pinch runner over and over again.

Sam Wainhaus


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The commish speaks